COVID-19 live updates: 7 states accounting for about half of new cases

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(NEW YORK) — The United States is facing a COVID-19 surge this summer as the more contagious delta variant spreads.

More than 614,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and over 4.2 million people have died worldwide, according to real-time data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Just 58.2% of Americans ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC last week, citing new science on the transmissibility of the delta variant, changed its mask guidance to now recommend everyone in areas with substantial or high levels of transmission — vaccinated or not — wear a face covering in public, indoor settings.

Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:

Aug 05, 2:03 pm

Amazon pushes return to office to January 2022

Amazon said it’s pushing its return to office date from September 2021 to Jan. 3, 2022.

For those already in the office, masks are required if not fully vaccinated, Amazon said.

-ABC News’ Zunaira Zaki

Aug 05, 1:55 pm

Education secretary tells Florida, Texas govs.: ‘Politics doesn’t have a role in this’

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he’s ready to work with states like Texas and Florida when it comes to reopening schools safely, telling Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis, who have banned mask mandates in schools, that “politics doesn’t have a role in this.”

“Don’t be the reason why schools are interrupted,” Cardona said at Thursday’s White House press briefing. “Our kids have suffered enough.”

Cardona said “educators know what to do” and that it’s “critically important” that he has direct conversations with governors and state leaders.

“We want to be an ally and make sure that we’re supporting our students,” he said.

-ABC News’ Justin Gomez

Aug 05, 11:35 am

US records highest number of daily vaccinations since July 3

The U.S. has seen 864,000 vaccinations in the last 24 hours, the highest daily number since July 3, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients said Thursday.

Among those 864,000 vaccinations were 585,000 first shots — the highest since July 1.

Zients said “Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma and Mississippi are now vaccinating people at a pace not seen since April.”

Tennessee has seen a 90% increase in first shots over the past two weeks and Georgia has recorded a 66% increase in first shots in the last two weeks.

However, seven states — Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi – which have some of the lowest vaccination rates, “account for about half of new cases and hospitalizations in the past week, despite making up less than a quarter of the U.S. population,” Zients said.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 05, 11:23 am

Yelp will show if businesses have vaccine requirements

Yelp now has a feature that will allow businesses to list if they have vaccine requirements.

The feature was mentioned at the White House’s COVID-19 briefing Thursday.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 05, 10:06 am

Arkansas governor reverses course on masks in schools

In Arkansas, one of the states hit hardest by the delta variant, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has reversed course, lifting a previously signed ban on mask mandates.

Hutchinson told “Good Morning America” Thursday that masks are not needed in schools if students are vaccinated but he’s “particularly concerned” about kids under 12 who are too young to get the shot.

In those cases, he said, schools should have the option to enforce masks.

The governor added that he’s pushing vaccine efforts with high school students and “making sure the faculty is vaccinated.”

Aug 05, 8:45 am

Moderna vaccine 93% effective against symptomatic disease after 6 months

Moderna says its vaccine is 93% effective against symptomatic illness after six months (though this data collection ended before delta emerged in the U.S.).

Moderna said its booster candidates also demonstrate robust antibody responses to variants of concern, including delta.

Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge told “Good Morning America” Thursday that the Moderna vaccine offers protection from delta right after receiving it, but it’s not known yet if that’ll hold up through the winter. He called winter “the biggest test of that vaccine which is why we need to be vigilant and careful.”

Hoge said he thinks booster shots will be needed and that the company is “preparing options,” but he added that that’ll be for public health officials, not the company, to decide.

He also noted that Moderna’s goal is to be vaccinating kids under 12 by the end of the year. Moderna isn’t authorized for kids ages 12 to 17 yet, but Hoge hopes authorization could come “any day.”

Aug 05, 8:28 am

US ‘may sooner or later get another variant’ if spread not controlled: Fauci

Without control over the community spread of the delta variant, the virus has “ample opportunity to mutate,” so “you may sooner or later get another variant,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told “Good Morning America.”

Fauci warned that it’s possible a new “variant might be in some respects worse than the already very difficult variant we’re dealing with now, which is a major reason why you want to completely suppress the circulation of the virus in the community.”

There are still about 93 million eligible Americans who have not gotten vaccinated.

Fauci added, “People who say, ‘I don’t want to get vaccinated because it’s me and I’ll worry about me, I’m not having any impact on anybody else,’ that’s just not the case.”

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 05, 4:33 am

Tokyo sees 5,042 positive cases — a new record

There are 5,042 new positive COVID-19 cases in Tokyo as of Thursday, according to the city’s coronavirus information website.

Of those cases, 135 are severe and one has resulted in death.

It’s a new record for Tokyo and a 178% increase since last Thursday, as the highly contagious delta variant spreads rapidly across the globe.

Aug 04, 8:32 pm
Over 15,000 new COVID cases in Texas

Texas reported 15,558 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, the highest one-day count since Feb. 3, according to state health records.

The state has seen a major jump in cases in the last month, brought on by the delta variant, according to officials.

The seven-day average of new daily cases has increased from about 1,500 on July 2 to nearly 10,000 on Aug. 3, according to state health data.

As of Wednesday, 62.58% of Texas residents 12 and older have received at least one shot, according to the state health department.

Aug 04, 7:32 pm
Hundreds of students, school staff quarantined in Arkansas district

Hundreds of student and staff members from the Marion School District in Arkansas are now quarantined in only the second week of the school year, officials announced.

The state has a ban on school districts imposing a mask mandate.

On Tuesday, the district said 253 students would begin their two-week quarantine due to 15 cases that were reported in the schools. This came after 168 students were already quarantined last week.

“If all students and teachers had been wearing a mask appropriately- then today’s 15 positive cases would be isolated- but there would be no resulting quarantines for anyone else,” the district said in a statement.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson told reporters Tuesday he regretted signing the bill that banned masks in schools and urged the state legislature to amend the law to give schools the option.

Aug 04, 7:11 pm
Florida school district says 2 employees dead from virus, pushes mask mandate

A Florida school district that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ban on school mask mandates said Tuesday that two of its employees died from the virus last weekend.

Carlee Simon, the superintendent for the Alachua County Schools, said in a statement that the district “is experiencing this spike first-hand.”

“Over the weekend two of our employees passed away from COVID,” she said in a statement. “We’ve had 18 new cases in the last three days alone. More than 80 employees are now in quarantine, and that number is rising fast.”

The school district, which includes which includes Gainesville, voted Tuesday night to issue a mask mandate for students and staff for the next two weeks. The mandate will be reevaluated on Aug. 17, Simon said.

Aug 04, 6:30 pm
Hawaii issues vaccine mandate for middle, high school athletes

The Hawaii State Department of Education announced that all middle and high school athletes, athletic staff and volunteers will need to be fully vaccinated by Sept. 24 in order to participate in activities.

The rule affects students who are eligible for the vaccines, meaning they must be over 12.

“This decision was not made lightly because we know the important role athletics play in a well-rounded education, but we cannot jeopardize the health and safety of our students and communities,” interim Superintendent Keith Hayashi said in a statement.

The start of the athletic season was delayed to Sept. 24 due to the state’s rising positivity rate, according to the department.

This is the first state to require vaccinations for its student athletes.

-ABC News’ Bonnie McLean

Aug 04, 5:54 pm
Illinois governor issues mask mandate for schools

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker announced Wednesday that all pre-K through 12th grade schools and day cares must follow universal masking indoors regardless of vaccination status.

Pritzker said the state is facing a growing threat from the delta variant and noted that children under 12 aren’t yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

“Far too few school districts have chosen to follow the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prescription for keeping students and staff safe,” he said at a news conference. “Given the CDC’s strong recommendation, I had hoped that a state mask requirement in schools wouldn’t be necessary, but it is.”

Aug 04, 4:27 pm
Surge pushing hospital staffing to breaking point

The latest delta surge is once again pushing hospital staffing to breaking points across the U.S.

In Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, some “facilities are experiencing substantial shortages of both clinical and support staff,” according to a Department of Health and Human Services planning document obtained by ABC News Wednesday.

In hard-hit Missouri, many hospitals “don’t have the staff to support a surge without further modification to operational strategies,” the document said.

At a Shreveport, Louisiana, hospital, where the number of COVID-19 patients are multiplying, nurse Melinda Hunt told ABC News, “To be honest, I probably cry most days at work. And I cry at home. I’m tired. I’ve been doing this a year and half. It feels like it’s never going to end.”

Aug 04, 4:08 pm
US daily case average jumped 45% in the last week

The U.S. daily case average has climbed to more than 84,000, a 45.3% jump in the last week, according to federal data.

The daily case average is now more than seven times higher than it was six weeks ago.

All but three states are now reporting high (a seven-day new case rate ≥100) or substantial (a seven-day new case rate between 50-99.99) community transmission, according to federal data.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Aug 04, 3:08 pm
Delta variant now 93% of all sequenced cases in US

The delta variant now accounts for 93% of all sequenced cases in the U.S., according to the latest CDC data, which was collected over the last two weeks of July.

Delta accounted for just 3% of cases sequenced in late May.

Across the Midwest, described as HHS regions 7 and 8, delta made up 97% to 98% of cases. This includes Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 04, 2:55 pm
WHO chief: No booster shots until at least end of September

The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on booster shots until more people from low-income countries have received a vaccine.

Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 shots for every 100 people due to lack of supply, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said Wednesday.

A moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September will “enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated,” he said.

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in response that the U.S. doesn’t have to choose.

“We feel that it’s a false choice and that we can do both,” Psaki said Wednesday.

The U.S. has ordered enough supply for every American to get vaccinated, plus get a booster shot, according to the White House. The U.S. has already pledged to donate 580 million doses to the international community by 2022.

-ABC News’ Sarah Kolinovsky and Zoe Magee

Aug 04, 2:27 pm
Hospitalizations could more than triple this month

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention forecasts that daily hospitalizations “will likely increase over the next four weeks.”

About 7,000 new COVID-19 patients are hospitalized each day right now. That may soar to 24,000 per day, according to the COVID-19 Forecast Hub at U Mass Amherst.

Aug 04, 2:11 pm
Fully vaccinated people susceptible to ‘long COVID’: Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that fully vaccinated people are also susceptible to “long COVID” if they have a breakthrough infection.

“We already know that people who get breakthrough infections and don’t go on to get advanced disease requiring hospitalization, they too are susceptible to long COVID,” Fauci told McClatchy. “You’re not exempt from long COVID if you get a breakthrough infection.”

As the delta variant surges, Fauci said, “there could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta.”

“If another one comes along that has an equally high capability of transmitting but also is much more severe, then we could really be in trouble,” he said.

-ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett

Aug 04, 1:40 pm
NY auto show canceled

The New York International Automobile Show, set to begin Aug. 20 in New York City, has been canceled due to the spread of the delta variant.

“All signs were positive” when planning began “but today is a different story,” show organizers said.

Aug 04, 1:30 pm
Louisiana hospitalizations reach all-time high

Louisiana now has 2,247 COVID-19 patients in hospitals — a new all-time high for the state.

This surpasses the previous record set Tuesday of 2,112 patients, the state’s Department of Health said.

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has reinstated a mask mandate for the month of August.

The governor said Wednesday that he won’t mandate vaccinations for state employees until the FDA grants full approval.

He said 37.1% of the Louisiana population is fully vaccinated.

Aug 04, 11:47 am
The Offspring drummer says he’s not playing at upcoming shows because he’s unvaccinated

Pete Parada, the drummer for pop-punk band The Offspring, says he is not playing with the band at upcoming shows because he is unvaccinated.

Parada wrote on Instagram that he’s avoiding the shot on his doctor’s advice, saying he’s had a lifelong battle with the rare neurological disorder Guillain-Barré syndrome and the vaccine’s “risks far outweigh the benefits.”

Because he’s unvaccinated, “it has recently been decided that I am unsafe to be around, in the studio, and on tour,” Parada said.

“I have no negative feelings towards my band,” he continued. “They’re doing what they believe is best for them, while I am doing the same.”

-ABC News’ Evan McMurry

Aug 04, 11:15 am
Florida hospitalizations reach highest point in pandemic

Florida has 12,408 COVID-19 patients in hospitals — the highest number to date of the entire pandemic.

Florida hospitals report that more than 95% of COVID-19 patients are not fully vaccinated, according to state data.

-ABC News’ Arielle Mitropoulos

Aug 04, 10:01 am
WHO chief: No booster shots until at least end of September

The World Health Organization is calling for a moratorium on booster shots until more people from low-income countries have received a vaccine.

Low-income countries have only been able to administer 1.5 shots for every 100 people due to lack of supply, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said Wednesday.

A moratorium on boosters until at least the end of September will “enable at least 10% of the population of every country to be vaccinated,” he said.

Aug 04, 9:20 am
Alabama hospital sees deadliest day of pandemic

Four COVID-19 patients at Regional Medical Center in Anniston, Alabama — all unvaccinated — died within 24 hours, marking the hospital’s deadliest day of the pandemic, The Anniston Star reported.

As delta surges, patients are now getting sicker faster, a doctor at the hospital told the newspaper.

Only 28% of residents in Calhoun County are fully vaccinated, according to The Anniston Star.

Aug 04, 8:24 am
Obama to ‘significantly scale back’ 60th birthday party

Former President Barack Obama has decided to “significantly scale back” his 60th birthday party on Martha’s Vineyard due to the spread of the delta variant, according to a spokesperson. Hundreds of guests were expected to attend.

“This outdoor event was planned months ago in accordance with all public health guidelines and with covid safeguards in place. Due to the new spread of the delta variant over the past week, the President and Mrs. Obama have decided to significantly scale back the event to include only family and close friends,” spokesperson Hannah Hankins said in a statement.

Obama’s office did not give a new estimate of how many guests will attend.

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